Malawi - 2019 Year-End Report Summary


Opeartional context

In March 2019, Malawi was affected by Tropical Cyclone Idai, which displaced some 87,000 people across 15 districts. UNHCR co-led the protection cluster response and provided shelter and core relief items to affected people.  Malawi was a roll-out country for the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework and the inclusion of refugees was incorporated into the Government’s “growth development strategy” and in the UNDAF 2019–2022. The Government made five pledges at the Global Refugee Forum in December 2019, related to the inclusion of refugees in the national development agenda; legal and policy reform; registration and documentation; settlement approach and self-reliance; as well as reception and admission to territory.

Operational priorities for UNHCR in 2019 included the implementation of a multi-year multi-partner strategy supporting the Government’s efforts to include refugees in national systems. UNHCR continued to advocate for the review of the Refugee Act, in line with the Government’s pledges at the Global Refugee Forum.

Population trends

Malawi hosted nearly 30,300 asylum-seekers and 14,100 refugees in 2019 (mainly from the Great Lakes region and the Horn of Africa), in Dzaleka refugee camp. The number of new asylum-seekers, particularly from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), continued to increase steadily, with more than 5,700 new arrivals registered by the Government.

In 2019, the Government adopted prima facie determination for asylum-seekers originating from North and South Kivu provinces in the DRC, as well as the Katanga region.


  • 320 residential plots were demarcated, and a one-room shelter material kit was procured for each plot.
  • 450 people of concern benefitted from the “graduation approach” supporting the poorest and most vulnerable refugee and host community households.
  • The Government of Malawi made five pledges at the Global Refugee Forum in December 2019.

Unmet needs

  • Inadequate funding continued to hamper the operation’s activities.
  • Dzaleka refugee camp required upgrading and new sites needed to be identified to alleviate overcrowding.
  • Food shortages led to food rations being halved as of May 2019, resulting in negative coping mechanisms.
  • People of concern only received 7 litres of water per day – far below the standard of 20 litres per day.
  • 53% out of 9,800 school-age children did not have access to education.
  • 70% of the refugee population were below the ultra-poverty line. Only 2% of people of concern were able to access livelihood interventions.
  • UNHCR was unable to support measures to address the backlog of 30,000 refugee status determination cases.